Penn State

Consortium forSocial Movements and Education
Research and Practice

Elizabeth Smolcic

Elizabeth Smolcic

Teaching Professor of Second Language Education
Elizabeth A. Smolcic

Professional Bio

Elizabeth’s research explores teacher learning around second/additional language learning, as well teacher interculturality, sociopolitical consciousness and constructing teaching dispositions and instructional strategies that work towards equity and anti-racism in increasingly diverse classrooms. She is working on a longitudinal study of novice teacher learning during and 5 years after an immersion experience in a new cultural/linguistic context for young teachers, tracking their development of sociopolitical consciousness. Other projects include investigating how university faculty and staff can move towards reciprocity and decolonial thinking in study abroad and exchange, including virtual interactions. A recent book, published in 2019 is "Redefining teaching competence through immersive programs: Practices for culturally sustaining classrooms."

Research Interests

Teacher Education for Linguistic and Culturally Diverse Classrooms, Virtual and In-Person International Exchanges, Intercultural Teaching and Learning, Equity-based Pedagogy and Instructional Practices

Related Materials

Our Research
The "achievement gap" for English learners and those of marginalized groups has been documented for well over a decade. It is widely recognized that socioeconomic status, language, and the fluid construct of culture play significant roles in school learning. However, despite the dismal academic progress of students learning English in U.S. classrooms and the rapidly diversifying student demographic, teachers who enter the profession continue to be predominantly White and monolingual with little or no intercultural experience. Such a critical lack of experience may lead teachers to view diversity as a problem rather than a resource. Central to successful implementation of pedagogies for instruction of English learners is a capacity to recognize how cultural and linguistic background shape learning and to utilize cultural differences to develop meaningful learning experiences for all students. This capacity may be included in the notion of intercultural competence or "interculturality", for which there exists a range of theoretical constructs, emerging from a variety of fields. Therefore part of the desired preparation for teachers who will work with English learners (and, more broadly, "all" teachers working in public school classrooms) should include knowledge, skills, and experience that contribute to intercultural competence and the development of a teaching practice that is responsive to students of other linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Teacher educators who have taken up the call to move teachers toward interculturality face a complex challenge. It can be especially daunting in a university that is predominantly White (situated within a mostly culturally and racially homogeneous community), in part because these conditions afford few openings to question one's own cultural, racial, and linguistic identity and the privilege that comes with it. In responding to these issues, the authors decided to collaborate to develop a course-embedded student partnership among students in their respective courses: preservice teachers and international students who were learning English themselves. The partnership experience was not always comfortable for the preservice teachers, but their reflections made clear that the work with international partners stimulated an introspective process and cultural self-awareness that may not have come about through traditional course readings and discussions, nor through field experience in public school classrooms, where the attention is appropriately focused on teaching and the learners.